Audrey Tautou: The Movieline Interview
You had been offered a Chanel biopic many times, but you only said yes to this one. What was it about Anne's pitch that convinced you?
I really felt that Anne had a good approach to Chanel's life, in the manner of how she wanted to treat this biography. Her approach was very original compared to others in this genre, and she had an understanding of Chanel's psychology that was very precise and accurate. My interest began in her very early years, her childhood, and the place she occupied at that time in history. As well, her relationships with men she had and how they changed her life, all of these aspects really intrigued me.
Even though the film cuts off before Chanel becomes famous, how much did you let what you know of her later life inform your performance?
Well, I read several books about her and watched videos and photos, so I tried to guess, what were the aspects of her personality that remained with Chanel in later life? What were the character traits that disappeared when the success came? And what character traits only came when she achieved fame and success? I was interested in the "diamond in the rough" before the facets were created by all the circumstances and events in her life. I'm trying to guess, because in Edmond Charles-Roux's biography, a witness said she was reminded of Chanel at the cabaret singing, and she said, "I remember her as shy and ambitious." And I thought, "Shy? That is not an adjective I would immediately think of for Chanel."
She was eighteen or nineteen at the time, and it was written that she had a lot of success with men, that she was very charming. And that's the same thing: "Charming" is not a word you'd immediately think of when you think of Chanel. So I thought it was really important to show her strength, but also maybe to show the vulnerability that she had that maybe she lost or managed to hide [underneath] her talent after. You see what I mean.
How was it to act opposite the American-born Alessandro Nivola, who speaks French in this film? I knew that he could do accents, but I've never seen him do a whole film in a foreign language.
Yes! He did an amazing job, because as a French person, when you listen to him talking, he speaks an amazing French, really amazing. He was great, very professional. He gave this look to Chanel which was the thing...it was that look that gave her confidence and fortitude.
Alessandro was the only actor on set performing in his non-native language. I'm sure you can relate to that, having made English-language films before.
Yeah, yeah, yeah! I always kept telling him, "I know it's hard, but don't worry, you're doing wonderfully well." It can be very frustrating to speak in a foreign language because you don't have the same freedoms as in your language. Sometimes you just want to feel freer!
Does that influence your desire to seek out English-language projects?
I've received some English-speaking scripts, but I was not interested in them. I would love to occasionally do English-speaking films, but the script is as important for me as the director. I'm not ready to do any compromises for my work.